Don’t Give In, and Stay Sane Doing So

I have a younger brother, and he is annoying. Everyone thinks his younger sibling is annoying; but, honestly, the younger ones often try to bother their betters.

Don’t believe me? When cell phones were a new thing, my teenage brother changed our mother’s ringtone to The Family Guy‘s Stewie saying, “Mom mom mummy mama… ”

He thought it was hilarious. …As if she hadn’t actually had us do that to her in real life.

Whether it’s a little brother or sister or not, all children are adept at repetitive behaviors. They say or do something over and over (and over); sometimes for kicks, oftentimes to get their way. If you think giving in will stop the annoying-ness, however, you are very wrong.

My advice for today is:

Don’t Give In!

Seriously. If you have said, “No candy before dinner” and catch them with Smarties, take the package away. When one boy smacks his sister, put him in Time Out just like your rules say will happen. Don’t want to impulse-buy toys every time you go shopping? Don’t!

The child who has exceptions learns that exceptions are the rule. And, elephants got nothin’ compared to the memory recollection of a child.

That’s not to say that sticking to your guns is easy. It’s not. Even after I (mostly) never give in, I often have to endure several minutes of telling my children, “No.” BUT, not capitulating does lead to respect, obedience, trust, faith, and fewer nagging sessions.

If you’re in the middle of a “no” session with your kid, here are some ways to keep your cool:

  1. Attempt to distract the whiner. He is probably hungry, tired, or bored; and badgering you is entertainment.
  2. Sing your answers. ♫ “Noooo! You may not have a coookieeeee! I love you too much to ruin your heeaaallllth!” ♪
  3. Put on some music. I do this as a last resort in the car, particularly if I cannot pull over to resolve a fight.
  4. Talk to the complaining child as best as you can, and tell her that you are not going to be able to talk to her for five minutes if the asking doesn’t stop. Then, set a timer for 5 minutes and ignore the noise.
  5. Pick a NON-PHONE task to do whilst repeating your calm, reasonable, “No.” Activities may include dishes, laundry, dusting, light cleaning, etc.
    I recommend against an activity with a phone because that’s teaching children to use phones for distraction.
    I also recommend against doing a task like pruning because you’ll be holding a sharp object.
  6. Imagine you’re somewhere else. Meditation and yoga exercises really help with this skill, or currently having a crush on a hot movie star.

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    Courtesy of People Magazine.
  7. Repeat back what he says as if you are a parrot, but do so with a lot of love and laughter. You’re not making fun of your child, after all; just the whining.
  8. Write the word NO on a Post-It and stick it to your mouth. Then your voice won’t get hoarse.
  9. Turn to your spouse, kiss him on the cheek, say, “Your turn,” then go take a nice relaxing closet break.
  10. Buy some noise-cancellation headphones.

Several of my boys are very concerned about fairness, fixate on erroneous issues, and have periodic mental meltdowns. If I can treat them with loving patience during any of those activities, so can you.

Staying strong will not only teach your offspring that you mean what you say, it will also exercise your own patience and mental endurance.

And you’re going to need that for the teenage years.

Suffer Not The Children

Don’t you just hate it when you know how to prevent some potential disaster, like when you see a full glass of soda too close to the table edge near a stream of running kids and you act to preventing it from spilling, only to accidentally trigger the catastrophe yourself perhaps into the lap of the most innocent person you know?  Seriously – at least for a few seconds, don’t you just want to die, knowing that the world would be safer without this talent you  have for creating chaos?

via Suffer Not The Children, by Gary A. Wilson

Keep reading for a cute story about an exuberant girl and a wonderful, understanding church leader.

Behavioral Issues? I’ll Take One for Now, Please

My boys are all …fun in their own ways. Torn between delusion and reality; I often decide that, despite reassurances of similar children, other families do not enjoy quite the smattering of personality challenges I do in raising mine.

Only my second son has been officially diagnosed with anything. That was a result of his school planner in first grade. The notes from his teacher began innocently enough: Had some difficulty when he was asked to sit and do his work, for example. By December, however, each week had a major incident or even two. Threw a chair was one. Tried to bite another student was another.

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That was four years ago, so some of the specifics are still repressed memories for me.

Threatened litigation by another parent was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Through an answer to a prayer, a cancellation made it so I was immediately seen by a new pediatrician. The doctor gave me the education and (eventually) the medication we needed. He has been wonderful.

I am not a fan of diagnosing misbehaving children nor of doping them up. My husband is even less so, which is still a sore issue regarding Boy #2. For the sake of keeping this shorter than a textbook, I have our son where he is with what he is taking because it works and he needs it. He takes a pill known as Straterra, and is now on a fairly low dose.

Every year we have a reevaluation with the doctor to discuss whether the medication is affecting anything. It is, in about a 95% positive way. Every summer we try not taking the pill, at my son’s request. Our record is three weeks.

At that point, I am reduced to constant babysitting. Every social interaction needs moderation and ends in meltdown.

Me: Now, remember: we can’t sit on your brother’s head.

Him: You never tell him not to sit on me!

I can tell he’s approaching puberty because he used to tear up and run screaming from the room. Now he clams up and gives me short little answers that prove he’s withdrawing and repressing on his own. *Sigh*

On more humorous notes, the lucid parts of his personality are more apparent during sober times. So is his forgetfulness. All day he asks me where he left his book or his glasses or his brain -okay, not literally his brain. Even on medication I tell him he’ll need a personal assistant as an adult to remind him to put on pants.

Even on medication he is himself and still has the same challenges. What makes medical intervention and therapy crucial is The Point of Meltdown. As a young child, entering meltdown meant I had to physically carry him to a re-direction point (often outside) until he burned through his feelings. It meant his telling me he did not hit a person whom I saw him hit, and getting fixated on how I hated him for forcing him to apologize.

I wrote a glib snippet last week about people wanting a silver bullet or a cure-all for behavioral issues. Wouldn’t that be nice; right?

The truth is that there is a cure-all, and it is love.

The Number One thing I’ve had to learn as my son’s mother is to show him I love him in an over-the-top, but genuine fashion. When he is being a mean jerk, telling me that he does wish he’d mortally wound his older brother, that’s the time I need to say, “I love you so much.” When he is hiding under the table and yelling about whatever ticked him off and that I never care, that’s when I start tickling his back and talking about how much he means to me.

Tickling his back and neck are his weakness, besides the love. Maybe your son or daughter has an Achilles’ Heel like that, too.

Life is not easy with a difficult child or four, but it is what it is. I’ve tried the Hide and Resent It approach; it’s not very effective. With patience, love, and lots of chocolate, taking it one day at a time is the best way to go.

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Distracted Momming

My husband has a pet peeve concerning me, and it is this: When we are having a conversation, I will turn away from him to address someone/thing else.

I do it when I’m talking on the phone to him, when I’m talking on the phone with another person and tell him a side thought, when he’s relaying the day he had at work, and when we are driving in the car.

But do you know the one time I DO NOT interrupt our tête à tête? When the children are not around to interrupt us.

If you are a parent with one child or less, you may be getting your trousers in a twist reading about my rudeness. I can hear your advice from way over here: “Just teach your kids to wait. It’s disrespectful.”

Believe me, O Clueless One, I do. And; much like my reminders to not talk with food currently chewing, not scratch their man parts so much, not hit their brothers, not interrupt me mid-lecture, and not pretty much everything that might burn the house down; they kind-of still do what they want.

When I’m feeling patient, I gently remind the boys to wait their turn (which, by the way, involves turning my attention away from my husband to do). When I’m feeling the way I almost always do, I tend to address their issue as quickly as possible because it gets them away from me. I think of it as ‘turning them off,’ like the Off button on an alarm.

Yes, they need to respect our conversation. Yes, they can wait. The problem is that children who are told to wait tend to bob right next to your elbow until you are finally done talking, and not all of the talking I do with my husband is child-appropriate.

Other moms understand -you know, the ones with two or more children (or perhaps one who is a lot more talkative than other kids). If I were to record whenever I call my sister, for example, the transcript would go as follows:

Me: Hey, so I saw you called earli- 12! Put the bat down! We don’t have bats in the car! Sorry, Sis… so you called?

Her (to a background of toddler humming): Yeah, I was just on the way to the doctor and wanted to check in. -What do you want, 2? More ‘cwackers?’ Can you say, ‘please?’

Her #2: Pweez!

Her: Okay, now we’re going to share with brother. That’s good…

Me: Yeah, we’re okay. We’re just on our way to Karate.

My #4: I’m hungry!

Me: 4, you ate before we left!

My #4: Is it dinner time yet?

Her: Dinner’s a good idea, 4! –No, 2, we’re not going to The Hot Dog Store [Costco]. We’re going to Grammy’s!

My #10, to My #7: Would you rather drink from a toilet, or swallow your farts?

Me: Hey! No potty talk!

…..And so forth.

My sister describes this Mom-addresses-child’s-interruption phenomenon as Mom Tourette’s. Yep, it’s not accurate. At the time she thought of it, though, I hadn’t been able to get a complete sentence out of her the whole conversation. I’m sure, given twenty years to re-grow our Mom Brains, we’ll have a better term for it.

For now, it’s –didn’t I tell you all to stay in bed?! Don’t make me tell you again!

Sorry. Now, where were we?

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The Difficult Child

According to commiserating folk, every child is difficult.

If I’m going off their actual, real-life, sighing, eye-rolling, judgy-face reactions, however, my child is the only difficult one. Those reactions, and what their kids are doing.

At a park full of happy faces, sand castle builds, a brother pushing a sister on a swing, and a group of giggling girls with Barbie dolls; my son is the one flinging sand or chasing his brother with murder in his eyes.

Mine’s the one hiding on the sidelines at the first grade school performance, while his peers sing the song they are supposed to. Later on, he’s the one who slaps a cute girl who tries to get him to come out.

The kid in a store who won’t stop screaming? Mine.

The ones brawling in the hallway after a religious lesson on love in the home? Also mine. All of them.

How about that one rogue boy who, when Nature called, couldn’t be bothered to find his parent or a toilet? He was my child, and was at a public splash pad when he dropped his swim pants.

Others get calls home from school about awards or examples of leadership. When I see the school’s number on my phone, I have a near-panic attack. And, rightly so! Before addressing my second son’s behavioral issues in first grade, he was sent to the office at least once a week.

“All kids are like that,” other parents tell me. Their child sits nearby, calmly playing with a toy and smiling and saying, “Please,” and “Thank you.”

“I’m not so sure they are,” I reply, with a bit of a nervous tic to one eye. Looking over at my offspring, I have to immediately rise and pull one out of the mouth of the other, while the little brat yells, “I hate you, Mommy! You love him more!”

I’ve tried to accept what I have, and (despite what they yell) I love who I have, but I’ve decided to accept a more obvious truth:

I actually have difficult children.

 

Photo credit: Zebras, Tigers